December 11, 2015

I Don't Deserve a Pay Raise...

I'm about to stir the pot, y'all.  This title alone probably got some blood boiling.  Just hang with me, please.  I am a teacher (surprise!).  I teach Kindergarten in Oklahoma.  And I don't think I deserve a pay raise.   Respect, I deserve.  More pay...I want.  There's a difference.  However, I think that teachers must get a pay raise.  Not because WE deserve it, but because our students do.  Let me tell you why it's about the students, and not about me and my wallet. 

Teacher pay is a hot-button issue in Oklahoma right now.  A school district in my state recently posted a video to YouTube that was inspiring, uplifting, and heartwarming.  It addressed many challenges faced by teachers in our state, but it also highlighted reasons why we love what we do.  I cried at the 8:00 mark. One local news station wrote up a story on the video and it began with this quote, "Teachers in Moore are taking to social media with a video they say they hope earns them respect. They also say they hope it gets them the paycheck they deserve." 

Cue all the naysayers that ever were.  

"You knew what you were getting into when you became a teacher."

Let's just start with that first argument.  Yes! You are correct!  I did know what I was getting into when I became a teacher.  You know that saying, "Teachers are in it for the outcome, not the income?"  Well, it's true, for almost all of us.

"Well, you do only work for nine months of the year."  

If you want to start a fight with an educator or lose them forever as a friend, comment about how nice it must be to have summers off.  While it is true we get some down time to spend with our kids (if we have them), or recover mentally from the grueling mental and emotional toll the year takes on us, we spend much of our summers preparing for the upcoming school year!  We attend professional development seminars, book studies, and spend countless hours in our classrooms.  We cut laminate at home, write lesson plans, study material and blogs related to our subject/grade level, craft projects for our classrooms, and put together student notebooks.  Also, as far as paycheck goes, our contract is a ten month contract that is split over a twelve month period. 

"It's not like you're starving." 

For me, this is also true.  However, I am blessed with a husband who works very hard and supplements my income.  I also have two side jobs.  I have a photography business with my sister and I have a Teachers Pay Teachers store.  So that helps some as well.  

"If you want more pay, find another job."

This right here, folks.  This is the winner.  FIND ANOTHER JOB.  Well, guess what?  That is exactly what teachers are doing.  The State of Oklahoma is in a teacher shortage crisis.  Young, brilliant people are choosing other careers instead of teaching based on pay alone.  Don't we want our best and brightest educating our youth? Then we need the pay to draw them in.

Those who do choose to go into the education field often take jobs in neighboring states, where they can make more money.  At the same time, as pressures and frustrations in our field rise, veteran teachers are leaving the profession to pursue other careers, or to retire.  This left our schools with over 1,000 vacancies at the beginning of August this year, and not enough teachers to fill them.  

I want to add that the numbers in this image are a bit skewed.  I am going to add an image of Oklahoma's current Teacher Pay Salary Schedule for perspective.

As a result of those 1,000 vacancies, a record number of emergency and alternative certificates have been issued.  In August of this year, the total number issued was 842.  This surpasses the PAST FOUR YEARS COMBINED at 825.  If you aren't aware, an alternative certificate means that anyone with a bachelor's degree (in any field) who passes a background check can become a teacher.  These candidates are required to take some courses during the year, but not near the amount of training that certified teachers who received a bachelors in an education field of study.  

Now, I personally know some fantastic emergency & alternatively certified teachers.  They are fantastic at what they do because they have given their heart to the profession and have had great mentors to guide them.  On the flip side, I have seen the effects of disastrous emergency & alternative certificates.  People who think that teaching will be "fun," and don't realize what a true honor, challenge, and responsibility it is to educate our youth.  I remember reading in a book (forgive me that I can't recall which one) that everyone thinks they can be an educator because they went to school.  At the same time, we have all been to the doctor, but we cannot all be physicians. This is where education gets discredited.

However, these problems can be fixed.  Teacher pay raises can increase the number of professionals entering the field.  It can draw in the best and brightest students to educate our children.  A pay raise for teachers would also keep our teachers in Oklahoma from leaving for other surrounding states and other professions.  Now, I am not a politician.  I don't have a solution for HOW to pay teachers more money.  There are several theories on what would work best. The video link above mentions some, including an oil tax or increase in sales tax. That's why they pay the politicians the big bucks.  TO FIND A WAY.

I don't deserve a pay raise.  I am so in love with teaching, I can't imagine that I would ever leave.  I love my students, I love the light bulb moments, the "ah-ha's", the hugs, and the excitement.  I wouldn't be happy anywhere else.  I am in it for the outcome.  I don't deserve a pay raise.  However, I believe that my students deserve the BEST teachers out there.  Our future students deserve the best and brightest that our state has to offer.  So, Oklahoma, do you think that our students deserve a teacher pay raise?  

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